Britten, Midsummer Night’s Dream (1960)
the fairies a powerful character, and Oberon a mystic King of Shadows. Watch for ways Britten picks out special phrases and celebrates them with repetition (as in “I swear to thee”) even sometimes taking the lines entirely out of context.  The final act centres around a complex quartet, weaving confusion and happiness – derived from Helena’s two simple lines And I have found Demetrius like a jewel,/Mine own, and not mine own. Watch it here. Auden says that in the Dream, Shakespeare: "..mythologically anthropomorphises nature, making nature like man.." so that "..mythological characters are used to describe certain universal experiences which we cannot control." ... By giving this aspect of the play greater prominence, Britten has shifted our focus from the human drama to the mysterious forces at work in the wood. Read more. Many different Dreams Peter Hall provided a production all about shadows – brilliant, sparkling, semi-human shadows in the woods conspiring and confusing the humans. Oberon is the King of Shadows. Here’s 35 years of The Dream at Glyndebourne. And most recently, and controversially, the ENO
Britten, the composer Benjamin Britten lived 1913-1976, across two wars; in the second, as a pacifist, he left the UK. Of his operas,  A Midsummer Night’s Dream is widely regarded as the pinnacle of his small- scale ‘chamber opera’ approach, in some ways an anomaly. More here. Read this thoughtful essay on Britten’s middle class, reclusive greatness here. Watch this Britten interview. Shakespeare, the librettist Britten and Peter Pears reduced the play by half (deleting the first act entirely) but hardly altered the words – except by putting them to music.  Download Libretto here. Music makes
took The Dream into the dark world of schooldays paedophilia and evil. But wait – the reviews are overwhelmingly awed and approving. Watch a glimpse here. Other productions have strayed further from Shakespeare: Baz Luhrman’s OA production (State Theatre 2010) dropped the drama into the British Raj with the fairies as Indian gods, substituting colour and action for  nocturnal  dreaminess. Review here. The many ways of taking the Dream are exemplified by the various Pucks – watch a compilation here.

Our production, Fridays 3 & 10 Aug.

Glyndebourne 1981. London Philharmonic cond. Bernard Haitink, Dir - Peter Hall. Cast list and review here. Video excerpt from Act I here.